Just Your Average Teenage Mer-Girl
The only thing that terrifies Jade more than the ocean is dancing at the Fall Formal. Because Jade has two left feeter, flippers. Who knew being a high school freshman is even more awkward than being a plus-size aqua-phobic mer-girl? At least her only drama is of the human variety...
The Mermish Council has just declared that all land-dwelling mers but return to the ocean. Pronto. But there's no way Jade is going to let her mom, or Luke, her...boyfriend? mer-guy-friend?, disappear into the deep, dark ocean. Again. After all, a girl's got to have a date to her first dance.
If Jade can stop mer-mageddon, finding a plus-size dress that doesn't look like a shower curtain should be a piece of cake.
Praise for Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings:
"Bravo to Hélène Boudreau for hitting the bull's-eye with a fresh, affectionate, watery twist on a classic, coming-of-age story."New York Journal of Books
"The author keeps the suspense high...while tapping straight into young teens' angst about friends, enemies, and boys."Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
HÉLÈNE BOUDREAU believes mermaids are just as plausible as giant squids, flying fish or electric eels. She now writes fiction and non-fiction for kids from her land-locked home in Ontario, Canada. Her first book of this series, Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings, was a 2011 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award finalist. www.heleneboudreau.com
Read an Excerpt
Ninth grade. The beginning of high school!
To say I was excited, walking up the steps of Port Toulouse Regional High, would be a bit of an understatement.
Finally, I'd graduated from junior high's mind-numbing field trips, soggy pizza Fridays, and lame school rules, and I'd moved on to the free periods, off-campus lunch privileges, and freedom of high school. Yay!
Sure, our small seaside town of Port Toulouse didn't actually have enough people for separate elementary, junior high, and high schools. So technically I was entering the same gray concrete building I'd been going to since kindergarten, but still.
Now that I was in ninth grade, I got to enter the school through the big blue door on the far side of the parking lot next to the regional library. Oh, and the community rec center.
We Port Toulousians liked to get the most out of our public buildings.
"You ready, Fish Girl?" my best friend, Cori, whispered as we paused at the top of the school steps, about to go inside. She was "dressed for success" in a cool Cori Original outfit she'd designed over the summer-a flowy, sleeveless teal top over batik-dyed jeans. I think a tenth-grade girl actually gasped in admiration as we passed.
"So ready," I replied, adjusting my backpack over my shoulder.
And it was true. I'd just spent the past four months trying to rescue my mermaid mother from a bunch of mer criminals who were keeping her captive in our nearby lake. I freed her from there to the ocean, lost her again, then finally found her in a tidal pool behind Port Toulouse Mall (losing my mer-crush Luke in the process). Then, I had to battle Chamberlain Construction and City Hall and the Mermish Council to get my mom and Luke back on dry land once and for all.
Now that Mom and Luke were safely back home and on their own two feet, I was really ready for things to get back to normal.
Well, as normal as things could get for a part-time mer-girl like me.
"Oh, and you've got to quit it with the Fish Girl stuff," I whispered to Cori, looking around the school yard to see if anyone had glanced our way. "What if someone hears?"
Thankfully, everyone hanging around by the high-school doors was busy texting, talking, or bopping along to something in their earbuds. There were no teachers in orange vests yelling through bullhorns for everyone to get in line, or flags on the school-yard fence to alert everyone whether this was a "pavement" or a "playground" recess depending on how much mud had collected below the slides.
High school = perfection.
"I could call you Fin Face instead, if you really want me to," Cori said cheerily as she swung open the big blue door and we took our first legitimate steps into the legendary halls of Port Toulouse Regional High.
"How about just Jade?" I asked, as we walked by the hallways leading to the town library and rec center and arrived at the windowed high-school office where Ms. Wilma wheeled around in her secretary office chair from her telephone, to the file cabinet, to the teachers' mail slots like a well-oiled bumper car.
"Okay, ‘Just Jade,'" Cori smirked, "but pick up the pace or there won't be any good lockers left."
Another perk of high school? Actual lockers! With doors! A far cry from the open-faced cubbyholes we used to have in junior high. But the lockers were first come, first served so that's why we were already in school at 8:30 a.m., even though the first bell wouldn't ring until nine.
We rushed down locker lane by the school gym (again, shared by the community center), which had the only lockers in the school, and snagged a couple of them close to the girls' bathroom. The hallway was already filled with kids yanking on metal doors to make sure their soon-to-be lockers were free of chewing gum and last year's sweaty gym socks.
"These will be perfect." I dialed through the numbers of the combination lock I'd brought from home and hung it from one of the lockers to claim it. Then I unzipped my backpack and pulled out my brand-spanking-new magnetic mirror, magnetic pen holder, and magnetic white board so I could Pimp My Locker.
"Yeah, and there are two other free ones a few doors down for Luke and Trey." Cori had already taped three hand-drawn Cori Original fashion designs to the inside of her locker door and was hanging beads and a hand-dyed scarf from the hook.
"Wow. My locker is so boring compared to yours." I'd thought my magnetic accessories were the best thing since chocolate-covered popcorn back at Office Depot. I'd even gotten them all in glossy black for that tied-together look, but compared to Cori's randomly accessorized locker door, mine looked plain. Sturdy-but plain. Kind of the same way I felt next to Cori, but I'd pretty much gotten used to having a beautiful friend.
"You dork," Cori exclaimed, sketching a quick dress design on my whiteboard with one of my dry-erase markers. It was girly and mermaidy, looking like it belonged on a red carpet. "I'd kill for one of these white boards! Plus, I call first dibs on your mirror after lunch period. I really don't want a replay of that unfortunate spinach incident from last year."
"Okay, okay." I laughed, remembering the afternoon when Cori had looked like a gap-toothed hockey player by the time I caught up with her after lunch and told her she had spinach stuck in her teeth. I scribbled my lock's combination number on a piece of paper and handed it to her. "Guard it with your life."
"Perfect." She took the paper from me and stuffed it in her locker, then scribbled her combination on a paper for me.
"Hey, where are those Martin guys, anyway?" Cori continued, looking around and over the heads in the crowded hallway for Luke and Trey, our...boyfriends. It was still really weird to think of them that way.
"Luke emailed me last night and said their boat's bow line got slashed and the boat drifted from its mooring," I said.
"Wow, really?" Cori asked.
"Yeah," I replied. "And apparently a couple of Jet Skis sank at Talisman Lake Marina, too. They've had to put a security guard on the night shift."
"Why would anyone want to vandalize a bunch of boats?" Cori wondered. "It's just so random."
"I dunno," I said. "But anyway, Luke said they finally found their boat. It had run aground on one of the lake's islands, and judging by the time of the email, I think they were up pretty late. Maybe they just slept in."
"Well, they're going to get stuck with lockers by the water fountain if they don't hurry up." Cori glanced around the hallway.
"Got it covered!" Trey bounced up behind Cori and grabbed her by the shoulders, making her nearly jump out of her skin.
"Hey!" Cori grabbed his hand and turned to give him a peck on the cheek. "I wanted us all to get lockers together."
"We just kept ours from last year," Trey said. "Mine's at the end and Luke's is across from the gym doors."
"Where is that little brother of yours?" I glanced over by the gym doors, hoping to catch a glimpse of Luke, but he wasn't there.
"If you mean that guy who just dominated at ollies skating over here, look no further." Luke appeared at my side from the other direction, with his skateboard tucked under one arm. He draped his other arm around my shoulder.
My heart did one of those ka-thumpa-thump-thump triple backflips, and a happy feeling spread through me. It had been a few weeks since we'd made our boyfriend-girlfriend status official back at the beach party at Toulouse Point. I still couldn't quite get used to the fact that Luke Martin, mer-boy himself, and I were actually a couple.
An actual boyfriend? Me? There was hope for mankind. Um, or mer-kind.
"Yeah, as if. You only wish you were half as good as I am." Trey jabbed his brother in the arm and whispered. "You're forgetting-I'm the land-dwelling kid in the family. Skateboarding is kinda my thing."
The coolest thing was that Luke and I didn't have to hide our mer secret from Trey and Cori. That came in really handy when we'd needed their help with our recent mer-scapades. But like Dad had warned me, the rest of the world couldn't be trusted. If our secret ever got out, who knew what could happen to us?
"Whatever, Bro." Luke rolled his eyes and turned to us. "So, you guys know where you're going?"
"Yeah...I think so." Cori looked down at the class schedule we'd downloaded from the school website the week before. "But they don't have our homerooms on here."
"Where do we find that out?" I asked, sneaking a glance at Luke. His summer tan made his adorable, curvy-lipped smile even brighter, and the sun had highlighted his curly hair to a golden streaked brown. Whoa, he was cute.
Luke caught me looking and blushed.
"There's a list by the front office." Trey nodded in that general direction. "Come on, newbies. We'll show you."
"Newbies?" Cori smirked, slinging her backpack over her shoulder. "You're just lucky we're finally in high school to add a little class to this joint."
"I'm putting you in charge of ‘classing up the joint.'" I shut my locker door and attached the combination lock while Luke stashed his skateboard in his locker further down the hallway. "I'm happy to be your wing girl, though."
"Oh, so Fish Girl is out and Wing Girl is in, then?" Cori joked. "Is there something you're not telling me?"
"Onward!" I ignored her and headed toward the front office.
The hallways were filled with teenagers laughing, gossiping, and listening to music. I smiled at how different everything was from last year. No one giving each other wedgies or making farting noises with their armpits. Finally, we were in high school-lame-free zone.
Luke caught up with us and squeezed my hand in his, further confirming for me that this was going to be the best school year yet.
"How's the boat?" I asked.
"Some damage to the hull but nothing too serious. Our neighbor's speedboat got swamped, though. His whole electronic system is shot."
"Wow, that's rough," I said.
"Yeah, compared to him we got off easy," Luke agreed.
"Other than that, though, how's life?" I asked, though the last time I'd seen him was less than twenty-four hours ago at Cori's while we hung around her pool, enjoying our last hours of summer freedom.
"Good." Luke smiled, then whispered in my ear, sending a shiver through me. "Great."
"Life's about to get ten times better once ‘yours truly' passes his driving exam so we don't have to skateboard to school every day," Trey said as he played Angry Birds on his phone. "The commute is killing me."
"You've already failed it twice. Maybe you should actually study this time." Luke reached over and flicked a finger over Trey's screen just as we arrived at a crush of people near the school office.
"Hey!" Trey laughed and shrugged off his brother. "You made me go long on that last bird."
A large crowd had gathered around the bulletin board while everyone tried to find their homerooms. We wormed our way to the front of the group to get a look at the list.
"I've got Miller," Trey said, running his finger down the list to see who else was in his class.
"Harrington," Luke responded.
"Oh, no!" Cori cried. She wriggled her way between Trey and Luke and squinted at the bulletin board. "Jade! We're not in the same class."
She was right. Cori was in Harrington's ninth-tenth grade split class with Luke. The school tended to group grades together for homeroom because of our low student population, but this was the first year since kindergarten Cori and I hadn't been together.
"It's just homeroom," I assured her, trying to hide my disappointment. "We still have some of our actual classes together."
"I guess," Cori said glumly.
Then I noticed something. I had Mrs. Thorne. But Mrs. Thorne was my homeroom teacher from last year. And lo and behold, Mrs. Thorne's class was an eighth-ninth grade split.
"Eighth-ninth? Are you freaking kidding me?" I looked at the list three times to make sure I was reading it correctly. "They've got me in with the junior high kids? Can they do that?"
"Really? Oh, yeah..." Cori narrowed her eyes as if trying to remember something. "Remember? We had homeroom with the seventh graders when we were in sixth. But that was elementary to junior high."
I shook my head. "I've been waiting two whole years to get out of junior high, and now I have to go back there for homeroom? Just great."
"Don't worry." Luke nudged me. "We'll still let you sit with us in the cafeteria."
I turned and leaned heavily against the corridor wall, not believing my bad luck. But Luke was right. If this was the worst that could happen, I wasn't going to let it ruin the perfectly awesome day I was having.
"Hey, Jade, is that your grandma?" Trey let go of Cori's hand and pointed through the glass windows of the school office. Gran had her back turned, talking to Ms. Wilma as she wheeled around in her office chair, ping-ponging from the filing cabinet to the photocopier and back to her desk with a stack of papers.
"What's she doing here?" I wondered aloud and made my way through the crowd to the office doors. Was there something wrong with Mom? Had there been an accident at Dad's work?
"Gran?" I stepped into the office.
Gran turned to me and her round, rosy-cheeked face broke into a sweet, grandmotherly smile. "Oh, hi, Jadie girl. I'm so glad you're here."
I walked over to hug her. "Is everything okay?"
"Oh, yes. Everything is fine," Gran assured me as she rifled through the bingo markers and tissues in her enormous handbag in search of a pen. "I was just about to get Wilma to call you down here on the P.A. I have someone who needs a tour guide."
That's when I noticed a girl about my age standing in front of a map outside the principal's office, clutching a schoolbag like it was a life preserver. It took a few seconds for my mind to register what I was seeing.
Long, golden brown hair, lanky arms and legs, slim shoulders. Last time I'd seen her, she was swimming off into the sunset with her mother and father in Talisman Lake. I touched the friendship bracelet she'd given me, hanging from my wrist.
"Serena?" I whispered and turned to Gran, not quite understanding. "What's Serena doing here?"